A PACIFIST'S WAR by Frances Partridge


Email this review


Are you persecuted much?"" her cloistered Christian Pacifist visitors ask Frances Partridge in 1941--""rather taking the wind out of my sails. I felt as if Jesus Christ had mistaken me for John the Baptist."" Save for some local sniffing when Ralph Partridge refuses induction into the Home Guard, and a break with erratic old friend Gerald Brenan, the Partridges don't suffer outwardly for their pacifist views; but hating war makes every day of bloodletting a trial, Frances Partridge's 1941-45 diary tells us, and, inferentially, makes human relations the more precious. At Ham Spray House, in rural Wiltshire, the Partridges provided a refuge--from bombardment, food shortages (they grew their own), war-weariness--for a wild concatenation of Bloomsbury friends--Stracheys, Bells, McCarthys--whose apt phrasings and untrammeled personalities light up the pages. In the immediate foreground, son Burro grows from a fervent, fantasizing tot (who appends to Bunyan's Hill of Difficulty, ""The Patch of Exhaustion"" and ""The Yard of Consolation"") to an all-consuming schoolboy; various household helpers come and, like their soldiering men, depart; Frances wonderingly takes up the violin again and does her poor best in the kitchen (Ralph, sympathetically: ""For a woman not to be able to cook is like impotence to a man""). And at breakfast, doing errands, by the fire, in bed, the two of them talk: about Anxiety, obsessionally (R.) or realisticaliy (F.) dreaded; about the New Statesman, to which both contributed, and its various lines--worst, ""the semi-erotic excitement about the brave young airmen in danger""; about their own situation, wanting the Allies to win yet unwilling to help them. For the bedrock of the book is their marriage, now heightened by the feeling of isolation in a world gone mad. Perhaps that's why one reads, intently, every well-chosen word.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Universe